Archived – DFO Class Grants and Contributions Program

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Project Number 6B101
Final Report
September 16, 2008

Table of Contents

List of Acronyms

1.0 executive summary
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Findings
1.3 Lessons learned
1.4 Recommendations

2.0 Introduction
2.1 Background
2.2 Evaluation objectives
2.3 Methodology
2.3.1 Methodology
2.3.2 Limits

3.0 Observations and recommendations
3.1 Program relevance
3.1.1 The program meets the ongoing needs of DFO and the recipients and it complies with DFO objectives.
3.2 Program performance
3.2.1 The CGCP was implemented as planned
3.2.2 The CGCP achieved its objectives
3.2.3 The program has been implemented for the best possible price
3.3 Lessons learned
3.4 Conclusions
3.5 Recommendations

4.0 Management action plan

List of Acronyms

  • ADM - Assistant Deputy Minister
  • CGCP - Class Grants and Contributions Program
  • CS - Corporate Services
  • DFO - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • FMASBB - Financial Management Advisory Services Branch
  • MRS - Management Reporting System
  • NCR - National Capital Region
  • RMAF - Results-based Management and Accountability Framework
  • TB - Treasury Board
  • UNICP - United Nations Informal Consultative Process

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1.0 Executive Summary

1.1 Introduction

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)’s Class Grants and Contributions Program (CGCP) is mainly used by most departmental sectors to support and finance projects such as, collaborative studies, research projects, participation in conferences and consultations, promotion of Departmental mandate, etc., that are undertaken by external organizations.

1.2 Findings

After an evaluation of the program relevance and performance, the Audit and Evaluation Directorate, found that:

1. The CGCP meets the ongoing needs of DFO and the recipients and it complies with DFO objectives:
  • Projects that received a grant / contribution were related to at least one of the three Departmental strategic objectives.
  • Financial support from DFO (grants / contributions) has enabled organizations to implement or participate in projects corresponding to eligible CGCP activities.
2. The CGCP was implemented as planned: Activities
  • Program activities have been achieved: DFO has received and examined applications for financial aid and then selected projects in accordance with the established procedure.

Outputs

  • Agreements (118 contributions / 61 grants) have been reached with recipients since the program was renewed in 2004.
3. The CGCP achieved its objectives: Immediate results
  • Grants and contributions provided to recipients have generally enabled them to improve their expertise in fisheries and oceans.
  • The immediate results for the overall program are difficult to determine because there is no overall coordination of the CGCP at DFO. Project data are collected and retained only by the relevant sectors and regional branches.
4. The program was implemented for the best possible cost:
  • DFO has established a standard process aimed at approval and monitoring of grants / contributions.
  • The projects have been completed within the established deadlines and no additional financial aid from DFO was requested.

1.3 Lessons learned

  1. The program does not help attract new organizations. In view of the fact that grants and contributions are funded out of DFO Sectors’ budgets, DFO does not publicize the CGCP to organizations of the fisheries and oceans sectors. DFO cannot afford to receive an excess of applications for financial assistance.
     
  2. The CGCP also plans to allocate financial assistance (grants / contributions) to international organizations operating in areas of interest to DFO. However, the program does not easily apply to international organizations, essentially due to its lack of financial and legal flexibility.

1.4 Recommendations

  1. The Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services should collaborate with the sectors and regions to take the necessary steps to increase the flexibility of the financial and legal aspects of the program in order to make the support mechanism for international organizations more effective. The program could be amended to allow the transfer of funding to “Pooled Funds”.
     
  2. The Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services should ensure that the project information collected (by the sectors and in the regions) can be synthesized in order to be able to draw conclusions about the performance of the entire program.

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2.0 Introduction

2.1 Background

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible, on behalf of the Government of Canada, for the policies and programs which support the economic, environmental and scientific interests of Canada in the areas of oceans and freshwater fish habitats. Over the years however, it has become apparent that DFO could not undertake all of the scientific research needed to fulfill its mandate without creating partnerships with external stakeholders, i.e. by reaching co-management agreements with them.

Prior to 1987, DFO regularly solicited the Treasury Board (TB), through individual presentations, to obtain approval for a vast range of grants and contributions which are of low dollar value or low risk. Given the nature of these individual grants and contributions, the low risk incurred and the initiatives of Treasury Board Secretariat to reduce the work load and improve administrative performance, the DFO Class Grants and Contributions Program (CGCP) was implemented on April 1, 1987. Throughout the years, the program has specifically been modified to improve partnership and co-management (1994), and to comply with the TB Policy on Transfer Payments (2000). The program is mainly used by most departmental sectors to support and finance projects such as, collaborative studies, research projects, participation in conferences and consultations, promotion of Departmental mandate, etc., undertaken by external organizations The program has been renewed for the period April 1, 2004, to March 31, 2009.

2.2 Evaluation objectives

The main objectives of the evaluation are to assess the relevance and performance of the CGCP.

Departmental Class Grants and Contributions Program (CGCP)
Issues Evaluation Questions
Relevance   Does the program meet the needs of DFO (mandate and strategic outcomes) and the target clientele?
Performance Efficiency: Has the program been implemented as planned?
Effectiveness: Has the program met its expected outcomes?
Economy: Has the program been implemented at the best possible cost?

The evaluation has also determined whether a performance measurement strategy has served to gather valid and reliable data; draw lessons from this experience, i.e. distinguish what does and does not function well; and propose recommendations to help improve program delivery.

The 2007–2008 evaluation was carried out in the National Capital Region (NCR). In addition, project data was gathered from the Quebec and Pacific regions, since, with the exception of the NCR, most projects were carried out in these regions.  

2.3 Methodology

2.3.1 Methodology

The three methods of data collection that helped answer the evaluation questions included: the examination of DFO documentation; research of the internet and databases; and interviews.

Eight (8) interviews, involving eleven (11) DFO officials in Ottawa were conducted between June 16, 2008 and July 4, 2008. These interviews especially helped the evaluation team to obtain general program information. Furthermore, four (4) DFO officials from the Quebec and Pacific regions provided written responses on the projects undertaken in their respective regions.

2.3.2 Limits

The Audit and Evaluation Directorate conducted a small-scale evaluation of the CGCP which was determined to be of low risk. This served as a pilot project for evaluation methodology for a low risk program. To do so, the scope of the evaluation was reduced to fulfill the evaluation requirements in a short period of time. The number of persons interviewed was restricted to DFO officials directly involved in the program and no recipients were consulted.

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3.0 Observations and Recommendations

3.1. Program Relevance

3.1.1 The program meets the ongoing needs of DFO and the recipients and it complies with DFO objectives.

All projects that received financial assistance in 2007–2008 (grant / contribution) were related to one of the three Departmental strategic objectives: 1) safe and accessible waterways; 2) healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; 3) sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

The CGCP also met the needs of recipients. In 2007–2008 for example, DFO financial support (grants / contributions), in particular, enabled organizations with specific expertise related to DFO’s mandate to carry out projects related to eligible program activities. In their letter of application, the recipients clearly demonstrated their need of financial support from DFO to undertake the projects.

3.2 Program performance

3.2.1 The CGCP was implemented as planned.

Activities and process

The CGCP was implemented as planned, i.e. program-related activities were carried out; DFO received and reviewed the applications then selected the eligible projects. To process class grant and contribution applications, DFO followed the procedures below.

Steps taken Results
1.      Application: Organizations submitted a grant or contribution application.
2. Evaluation: The regions / sectors evaluated the proposals within the context of the program and prepared briefing notes for the Deputy Minister (grants / contributions).
3. Recommendation: The Assistant Deputy Ministers (ADMs) of the involved sectors recommended most of the proposals, which are transferred to the Corporate Services (CS) sector, i.e. to the Financial Management Advisory Services Branch (FMASB), (grants / contributions).
4. Critical review: The FMASB reviewed the applications and ensured that all of the terms and conditions are respected and that the grants and contributions fall under departmental authority (grants / contributions).
Step to be taken Results
5. Final approval: The Minister approved the class grants. The approvals were returned to the ADM, CS (grants).
The Deputy Minister approved the class contributions. The approvals were returned to the ADM, CS (contributions).
6. Funds transfer: The FMASB processed the budgetary transfer applications to ensure the funding allocation for the grants and contributions and returned the documents to the sectors involved (grants / contributions).
7. Communication: The recipients were advised of the decision: an official letter was sent to the recipients who requested payment (grants / contributions).
Signature: The agreements are jointly signed by the recipient and the DFO manager in charge, with delegated signing authority, on behalf of the Minister (contributions).

Information gathered from DFO officials demonstrate that most of the applications for financial assistance were accepted, sometimes after additional information was obtained. In 2007–2008, only one application for financial assistance was refused.

Outputs

Agreements (118 contributions / 61 grants) have been reached with applicants over the past four years since the initiative had been renewed on April 1, 2004.

Regions Number of projects
Grants Contributions Total
NCR: 53 50 103
Pacific: 4 19 23
Central and Arctic: - 2 2
Maritimes: - 4 4
Gulf: - 5 5
Quebec: 1 29 30
Newfoundland and Labrador: 3 9 12
Total: 61 118 179
Note: The CS sector provided the data in the table, which presents 118 contributions instead of the 123 that were registered in the Management Reporting System (MRS). The difference stems from the fact that some projects registered in the MRS are accounted for each year. The overall amount of contributions remains the same is both cases.

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3.2.2 The CGCP achieved its objectives.

Immediate results

Funded projects (grants / contributions) generally involved issues that DFO must address.
Projects that received financial support in 2007–2008 correspond with eligible activities under the CGCP and meet at least one of DFO’s three strategic objectives.

Allocated class grants include:

Projects Eligible Activities DFO Strategic Objectives
Five (5) projects … have enabled recipients to participate as members in Canadian and international organizations associated with the research, development, management, safeguarding, conservation and protection of fisheries and oceanic resources and related questions. These projects involve attaining the following strategic objectives: healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
One (1) project … has helped to promote an organization committed to the conservation and protection of fisheries and oceanic resources. This project involves attaining the following strategic objectives: healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
Three (3) projects … have helped to promote initiatives related to fisheries, oceans and waterway safety. These projects involve attaining the following strategic objectives: healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

Allocated class contributions include:

Projects Eligible Activities DFO Strategic Objectives
One (1) project … has helped to define and develop fisheries resources better. This project involves attaining the following strategic objectives: healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
Three (3) projects … involved the administration, management of marine habitats and freshwater, and the application of the related regulations. These projects involve attaining the following strategic objectives: healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
Seven (7) projects … has enabled research and monitoring related to the   aquaculture, hydrography, oceanography and sciences sectors. These projects involve attaining the following strategic objectives: safe and accessible waterways; healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
One (1) project … involved maritime safety support. This project involves attaining the following strategic objective: safe and accessible waterways.
Six (6) projects … involved the development and promotion of commercial fisheries. These projects involve attaining the following strategic objectives: healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

The data gathered from DFO officials in the Pacific and Quebec regions demonstrate that the CGCP has enabled recipient organizations to improve their expertise in fisheries and oceans by allowing them, among other things, to participate in research and attend conferences on issues related to fisheries and oceans.

This is also true for DFO insofar as the Departmental sectors and regional branches gathered relevant performance data for each of their respective projects having a contribution component. These data are kept separately in the various administrative units of the Department. However, these data have not been synthesized at the program level. Consequently, the immediate results of the CGCP are difficult to determine because there is no real coordination of program information at DFO. There is generally no one responsible for coordinating the collection of program information. Project data are collected and retained only in the relevant sectors and regional branches. The CGCP is a highly decentralized program.

The CS sector is not mandated to follow up on program performance. However, it correctly carries out its responsibility for monitoring the grants / contributions application process.

Intermediate and long-term results

The Results-based Management and Accountability Framework (RMAF) mentions that the program takes into account only the planned immediate results. This is what is being done. The reason being: “because the program is very broad, covering the overall Department through individual applications,” it had been agreed that it “would be tremendously difficult to truly measure and evaluate, in terms of reliability, credibility and validity, the consequences and effects of all the intermediate and long-term results.”1

3.2.3 The program has been implemented at the best possible cost.

The program was implemented at the best possible cost. Two factors demonstrate this point.

DFO has established a standard process (see pages 3 and 4) for the approval and monitoring of class grants / contributions. In general, this process has been followed for each of the grant / contribution applications received at DFO. It consists of both a program and financial review prior to the Deputy Minister’s approval for contributions and by the Minister for grants.

The projects that were examined within the scope of this evaluation, i.e. those of fiscal year
2007–2008, were completed within the prescribed time. Furthermore, none of them received any additional financial assistance from DFO to be completed.

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3.3 Lessons learned

  1. The Class Grants and Contributions program is funded internally through various DFO Sector budgets.  In view of this, DFO recognizes that publicising the application requirement(s) may result in an excess of applications being submitted for financial assistance, which may not be practical and/or affordable.  In light of this, DFO does not publicize the CGCP to organizations in the fishing and oceans sectors. Under these conditions organizations may be unaware of the existence of the program.
     
  2. The program lacks flexibility. The CGCP also plans to allocate financial assistance (grants / contributions) to international organizations operating in areas of interest to DFO. However, the program is not easily applied to international organizations, essentially due to its lack of financial and legal flexibility. The following two examples bear particular notice.

    The CGCP helps to allocates financial assistance (grants / contributions) to organizations, but not, as in the case of the United Nations, to a “Pooled Fund” that allows members of developing countries to participate in the United Nations Informal Consultative Process (UNICP). The “Pooled Fund”, in which member States participate (with the exception of Canada), helps to defray travel and accommodation costs of participants from Africa, Asia, etc. Canada (DFO) is committed to providing its share to the Pooled Fund, but it can only do so through the CGCP. However, financial assistance of this type is not possible because of the differences in legal clauses between Canada and the other States. Under theses conditions, it is not possible to transfer the necessary funds to the United Nations to honour Canada’s / DFO’s commitment.

    There are also legal problems. For example, a clause requiring recipient organizations to respect Canada’s official language or to conduct evaluation and audit studies does not always apply. This complicates agreements, in that to adhere to legal and other requirements of the CGCP, recipient organizations must sometimes demonstrate flexibility. The majority of international organizations operate in English only, and have no bilingual mandate. Some organizations are financed primarily with grants and contributions from multiple sources, and it is impossible for them to adhere to the audits and evaluation clause because they lack the necessary resources to honour this clause. In both of these cases, the international recipients may have difficult accessing the CGCP.

3.4 Conclusions

The CGCP is useful for recipient organizations and is useful to DFO.

On one hand, the financial support from the CGCP has enabled organizations in the fisheries and oceans sectors to undertake projects and, notably, to participate in meetings, conferences, etc. Application letters by organizations requesting financial assistance shows how CGCP support helps them improve their expertise in areas of interest to DFO.

On the other hand, it is not possible to establish precisely how useful the program is to DFO, primarily because a mechanism for centralized program performance measurement is lacking. Project data gathered by the sectors and in the regions would need to be synthesized globally. This would help to determine the immediate program results.

3.5 Recommendations

  1. The Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services should collaborate with the sectors and regions to take the necessary steps to increase the flexibility of the financial and legal aspects of the program in order to make the support mechanism for international organizations more effective. The program could be amended to allow the transfer of funding to “Pooled Funds”.
     
  2. The Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services should ensure that the project information collected (by the sectors and in the regions) can be synthesized to be able to draw conclusions about the performance of the entire program.

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4.0 Management action plan

Project Title : Class Grants and Contributions Program
Project Number : 6B-101
Sector :
DAC Approbation Date :
1st follow-up Report :
Recommendations management action plan follow-up report update
completed Actions Actions to complete due
1.      The Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services should collaborate with the sectors and regions to take the necessary steps to increase the flexibility of the financial and legal aspects of the program in order to make the support mechanism for international organizations more effective. The program could be amended to allow the transfer of funding to “Pooled Funds”. [ Cabinet confidence ]     Initial: March 31, 2010
Revised:
2.     The Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services should ensure that the project information collected (by the sectors and in the regions) can be synthesized to be able to draw conclusions about the performance of the entire program. [ Cabinet confidence ]     Initial: March 31, 2010
Revised:

1 Departmental Class Grants and Contributions Program. Results-based Management and Accountability Framework.